The campaign of retired neurosurgeon and GOP president hopeful Ben Carson defended the candidate's controversial comments on Sunday implying he didn't think a Muslim should be president, NBC reported.
Appearing on Meet the Press, Carson said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not," after stating that he believed a person's faith mattered by saying, “I guess it depends on what that faith is."
Defending Carson, campaign spokesman Doug Watts said Carson will reach out to members of the Muslim community to explain his comments, saying they are being misinterpreted and that he was speaking of the American public accepting a Muslim president and not himself.
"He did not say that a Muslim should be prevented from running, or barred from running in any way," Watts said. "He just doesn't believe the American people are ready for that."
"Dr. Carson is a strict adherent to the First Amendment — freedom of religion. That includes people of all faith," Watts said. "He has great respect for the Muslim community, but there is a huge gulf between the faith and practice of the Muslim faith, and our Constitution and American values."
Carson's comments were immediately blasted by Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders who issued a statement on Sunday saying, "I am very disappointed that Dr. Carson would suggest that a Muslim should not become president of the United States. It took us too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president. People should be elected to office based on their ideas, not their religion or the color of their skin.”
Carson has made controversial statements before that have been little noticed, but his latest on Muslims comes on the heels of the GOP front runner Donald Trump's no-comment on a supporter's claim at a town hall meeting last week that Muslims in America are a "problem."